Thursday, November 14, 2013

What is Normal Anymore?

It feels like the last year has been anything but normal around here, and yesterday was another one of those days that I wish had never happened. I wish we could go back to normal...whatever that is. Yesterday we lost our big girl (dog) Maddie. She has been a part of our family for over 12 years. It's almost like one of my kids are gone.

When our boys were really little and when we moved into our house, we decided we wanted a dog. We got an English Setter from a free ad in the newspaper. He was super hyper and a runner. He got picked up and put into doggie jail several times. We couldn't keep him from running. Eventually we had to give him up and hope that he could find a family that had a fenced in yard.

After that, I did a lot of research on what type of dog would be a good dog for our family. We decided to get a pure-bred golden retriever. She was a tiny puppy and was a wonderful dog. The problem...two very small boys and parents that worked, and the fact that she made more work! This mom was on over-load and couldn't do it anymore. We found someone to take her and she went quite happily to her new home.

A few years went by, and our hearts were yearning for a furry friend to join our family. I spent several months praying for God to lead us to just the right dog for our family, and the boys and I spent several months visiting shelters and adoption days at local pet supply stores.

One day we found a dog that looked like a hot chocolate colored mini golden retriever at an adoption day at a pet supply store. The boys and I were thrilled with her-we thought "she's the one"! So we raced home and convinced Kevin that we'd found our girl. He reluctantly came back with us to check her out.

He took one look at her and said, "No, we don't want that dog.If we're going to get a dog, we need to get one like this one, who will chase a ball and run around with the boys." and he was pointing to a giant cage with a big black lab in it. There was a sign on the cage that said "Loves to chase balls".

I didn't want another dog that shed. I wanted a smaller non-shedding dog, but I knew if I passed up the lab that we'd end up going home and not getting a dog that day, and maybe not for a long time because Kevin wasn't as enthusiastic about us having a dog as we were. So I reluctantly agreed. We brought her home and changed her name from Choco-lat (because she had dark brown on her lower legs-and that was as creative as her foster family could be) to Maddie.

All we knew about her was that she was abandoned right after giving birth to puppies and she was good with kids and liked to chase a ball and have a toy with her all the time.

Within a week, I was wondering what in the world was I thinking!! There was dog hair flying off of her like the fuzzies that fly from dandelions in  the summer. And the toys that we bought her, she had ripped to shreds in a matter of hours, leaving stuffing and another mess to clean up.

I was telling a co-worker how I thought I was going to have to find a new home for her because she was making so much more extra work, and I couldn't take the hair anymore, and she kept trying to encourage me to hang in there. Then 911 hit, and it really scared my youngest son to his core. He was afraid Osaba-bil aba (that's how he pronounced it) was going to come get him and kill him.

Maddie was the only place he found security. She became his protector. She gave him courage to sleep in his room at night and somehow she gave him courage to go to school and eventually not be afraid anymore. She was really the perfect dog for our family. She was patient with little boys, she loved us all like no tomorrow, she never was mean or snippy, she tolerated a LOT and never complained. She was always there when you were upset to cuddle up with you and give you kisses.

By the time the first year was up, I knew that God had really led us to the perfect dog, it wasn't the one I had picked out, but she really was perfect-except for the hair! She did everything with us up until this past year, when we started leaving her at home more and more because it was just getting too hard on her to be in the car for long periods of time to drive to my parents-even though she absolutely LOVED it at their house and in their lake.

She went through a lot of "babies" over the years (stuffed animals), she always had to have one in her mouth! She always had to prance around and show them off, she always had to sneak peeks into the grocery bags we brought in from the car to see if by chance there might be a new baby for her. She learned to sneak into the pantry and help herself to cookies (her dog treats), if she had a hankering for a snack, but she never got into the trash if it was left out (something our new little girl can't stay away from).

Every time she would shred a stuffed animal and fling the stuffing all over, we'd call it a her crime scene, and laugh it off. She would chase a ball like nobody's business! She would run, and run and run! She even loved to have the ball thrown down the stairs to the basement so she could race after it and bring it back to you! She got really good at opening Christmas presents and I think she looked forward to Christmas morning as much as the boys did!

She was so gentle and sweet spirited that even when she was in what I would expect would be excruciating pain, never lashed out or snapped at anyone. She was always steady and calm and tender and loving. She had two very serious injuries where we thought we might lose her. Once when Eric was really young, he was playing with her and she kept nibbling at this fingers-probably to tell him, enough kid, he put a rubber band around her snout. Somehow, the rubber band got up over her head and around her neck.

We didn't know about it because we didn't see it, and he didn't tell us. Eventually, she started to have a terrible smell about her, and since we lived next door to cows, and she loved to roll in the poo, I just assumed she had gone out and gotten her perfume on-like so many other times.

I gave her a bath, but kept her collar on for some reason, and didn't see the rubber band because it had settled under her collar. After the bath, the smell came back and would't go away. Eventually I took off her collar for a really good bath, and that's when I saw her neck, it was raw meat with a rubber ban embedded over an inch deep in her skin, below the fur.

During the entire time she was suffering and in pain, she was acting normal-playing, chasing balls, letting the boys cuddle up with her, she was eating and acting normal. When Kevin took her to the vet that day, we didn't think we'd see her again, but she came home and made a quick recovery-she had an awful scar as a reminder, but she made a full recovery.

A few years later, she went for a walk on the train tracks with Kevin and the boys, and they didn't realize that the rocks were so sharp. By the time she got home she couldn't walk up on the deck and into the house. She just laid down in the yard, and wouldn't come when I called. When I saw her feet I couldn't believe she wasn't writhing in pain! She made a quick recover from that as well.

A few years ago, she stated slowing down, no more ball chasing, she stated losing weight and stated having back-end weakness, but she was still doing everything else. We got Lucy a little over a year and a half ago, and she seemed to have breathed new life into Maddie. At first we were worried that Maddie would view Lucy as a stuffed animal and rip her to shreds, but she actually fell in love with Lucy and Lucy helped her turn back the clock a little and gave her a new outlook and renewed energy.

They were like two peas in a pod-even though one was 50 pounds and the other 8. They curled up together and just seemed to fit. They were great friends and companions.

Day by day, we could see Maddie struggling more and more to get up from her bed and in the past few weeks, she couldn't go up the few stairs to come inside anymore. We talked about it, but I kept insisting she wasn't ready, she was still following me from room to room, she still enjoyed Lucy and her babies, she still seemed happy.

Kevin wanted to take her, but I kept stalling. Yesterday, while I was at work, he took her. He told me it was coming, but didn't tell me that yesterday was the day. I never got to say good-bye. I found out when my boss was on facebook and saw the post my youngest son made about her. It was such an awful, painful moment-one I am sure I will never forget. I wish I would have had known so I could have hugged her and said good-bye!!!

She is buried in our back  yard, behind our barn. I can't bring myself to go out there yet. I can barely see the screen to type this through the tears. I know she is not suffering, and not in pain anymore, but it feels like one of my kids has been ripped away from me. I miss her terribly!!! Even Lucy is reeling from missing her best friend, she just wants to be curled up in my lap or be held in my arms. I know the boys and Kevin will miss her too, it's going to be a sad time for a while in our house-hopefully we can find a place to reflect on what a wonderful dog she was and how much joy and love she brought to us!

Rest in Peace Maddie-we love you!!!

 Her favorite place in the world!

 Always trying to catch those ducks!

 The girl with the freckled tongue!

Always the lady, crossing her legs when she sat down!


  1. I'm so sorry that you lost your dear girl and even more so, that you didn't get to give her a big hug and tell her how much you love her. I know some people say, 'it's just a dog', but I believe they know how we feel about them! I'm sure you showed her how much you cared for her in lots of ways!

  2. I am so very sorry about your Maddie. It is like losing a child, they are our fur-babies after all. I'm sure she knew that you loved her...crying with you..

  3. So sorry for the loss of your cherished friend. I do wish you could have a chance to say "goodbye"- either way it is a hard decision. Glad you have another furry friend to help your family recover.

  4. So sorry on the loss of your furry friend. I do wish you had gotten to say "goodbye"- either way is hard. I'm glad your family has another furry friend to make you smile.

  5. I'm sorry you had to lose your companion without getting to say good bye to her. It's beautiful how God brought you the dog you needed.